Using Testing to End Masking after Isolation

A rapid test shows a negative result

This page outlines how to use home tests or rapid antigen tests to know when to stop masking. We'll say "home tests" throughout the page, but keep in mind rapid antigen tests done by a healthcare provider or pharmacy can also be used for this method.

If you are sick or tested positive for COVID-19, see our What to Do if You're Sick or Were Exposed page first.


  • On August 11, the CDC updated their isolation guidance for people with COVID-19.
  • CDC offers the option of using home tests to know when to stop masking. We explain this option below.
  • While this home test option is available to you, we strongly recommend masking for the full 5 days after ending isolation.

How to use home tests to end masking after your isolation period

  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you must stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home, regardless of if you test negative using a home test before day 5. You are likely most infectious during the first 5 days. See our What to Do if You're Sick or Were Exposed page for details on isolation.
  • If you choose to use this method, you must continue masking until you receive two negative tests in a row. This means you may have to mask beyond day 10 (up to day 14).

After you have finished your 5-day isolation period

  1. Wait until it’s the 6th day after your symptoms first started. On this day you should also have been fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your other symptoms should also have improved. If you never had symptoms, wait until the 6th day after your first positive test.
  2. Take a home test.
  3. If the result was:
    • POSITIVE: wait 48 hours and start the process over (return to Step 2).
    • NEGATIVE: wait at least 48 hours and take a second home test (go on to Step 4).
  4. If the result of your second test was:
    • POSITIVE: wait 48 hours and start the process over (return to Step 2).
    • NEGATIVE: you may take off your mask.

You must have two consecutive negative tests at least 48 hours apart to remove your mask early.

With two consecutive negative tests at least 48 hours apart, the earliest you may remove your mask is on the 8th day after your symptoms started. If you never had symptoms, the earliest you may remove your mask after two consecutive negative tests at least 48 hours apart is on the 8th day after your initial positive test.


People Who are Unable to Mask

Can children under 2 or other people that cannot safely use a mask use this method to end their isolation before day 10?

  • Technically, yes, if children under 2 or people with certain disabilities choose to use this method, they can end their isolation after two consecutive negative rapid tests taken at least 48 hours apart.
  • We strongly advise against this method because:
    • Many home tests are not approved for use in children under 2 years (because it is difficult to get an accurate sample)
    • The person trying to test out of isolation may end up having to isolate even longer  beyond day 10 (up to day 14) until they receive two negative tests in a row.

More Information on Home Tests

For more information on where to find a home test and how to interpret their results, see our Home Testing page.

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